Métis Nation of Alberta Brings Court Challenge to Manitoba Métis Self-Government Agreement

Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta.  (Jamie McCannel/CBC - photo credit)

Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. (Jamie McCannel/CBC – photo credit)

The Alberta branch of the Métis Nation has signed an updated self-government agreement with Canada, although it is on trial to challenge a similar agreement between the Manitoba Métis and Canada.

In a 2021 federal court review, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) argued that the Manitoba Métis Federation’s (MMF) self-government agreement fueled conflict and violated the honor of the Crown.

The Alberta Confederation wanted the agreement rescinded, or at least “downplayed,” court filings said, claiming it empowered the Manitoba Federation to potentially oust other collective Métis associations by luring its members away.

MNA President Audrey Poitras said in a statement to CBC News on Friday that productive discussions held during the court challenge sparked the updated deal, which addressed many of the MNA’s concerns.

“Now that our updated self-government agreement with Canada has been signed, we will consider how to proceed with our lawsuit,” she said.

The 47,000-member MNA first sought an injunction preventing the 44,000-member MMF from attempting to poach citizens in what the MNA said was its exclusive turf.

“The MMF has claimed that it now represents the citizens of the Métis Nation in Alberta and has supported the formation and development of a new Alberta Métis organization known as the Alberta Métis Federation to serve as a satellite of the MMF and ultimately to displace the MNA,” the filing reads.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The allegations have not been tested in court.

The court filings named the MMF and the Minister for Crown Indigenous Relations as defendants. The Minister and MMF submitted appearances but no comprehensive responses.

The MMF declined to comment directly on the case. In a general statement to CBC News, President David Chartrand dismissed the notion that the MMF’s jurisdiction ends at the Manitoba border.

“Red River Métis are coming home to our government in the thousands knowing we are fiercely defending our distinctive identity, culture and nation,” Chartrand said.

“We will not be stopped by anyone trying to steal our identity.”

The 2021 Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement reaffirms the MMF as the Democratic Government of the Manitoba Métis, historically known as the Red River Métis.

Saskatchewan Métis supports MNA

The office of Secretary of State for Crown Indigenous Relations Marc Miller did not respond to questions about the court’s challenge pending publication.

In a Friday press release, he said Alberta’s new deal will “revitalize and transform our relationship between governments.”

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Meanwhile, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) petitioned in March 2022 to join the MNA’s case and said it shared Alberta’s concerns, with its request for intervention scheduled for May 8.

The MN-S similarly claimed that the MMF’s deal effectively allowed the federation to replace the MN-S on their home territory.

“Canada’s decision to sign the MMF Self-Government Agreement has exacerbated internal divisions across the Métis Nation,” the motion said.

The MN-S declined to comment further when contacted about the case. The MN-S has also signed a self-government agreement with Ottawa.

MMF, MN-S and MNA are together the three founders of the Métis National Council, established in 1983 on the eve of a constitutional conference on indigenous rights. Forty years later, the Council is divided.

The MMF split from the national organization in 2021 after years of internal factions and conflicts between top Métis leaders. Disputes over key issues of identity and governance continue to rage amid court cases and political power struggles.

The constitution of the MNA is before the court

Despite this, the various branches of the Métis nation are trying to get back into business.

The MNA voted in December to ratify the Otipemisiwak Métis government constitution, but the process faces a court challenge by the Métis Settlements General Council, which governs more than eight Métis settlements occupying more than 500,000 hectares of territory in Alberta.

The General Council rejected the MNA’s authority, calling the ratification of the constitution an “illegitimate strategy to deprive the Métis settlements of their self-government, their constitutional rights and their lands” in a motion for judicial review in November 2022.

This allegation was not tested in court either.

In the east, the Métis Nation of Ontario is holding a provincial referendum on whether to swipe more than 5,400 members who lack documentary evidence of Métis ancestry from their register.

MNO President Margaret Froh declined to comment directly on court matters but said the different Métis governments must respect each other.

“I’m one of those Métis associated with the West and a lot of my ancestry is rooted in the Red River Valley and I would definitely say that the MMF doesn’t represent me,” Froh said in an interview on Thursday.

“It’s up to the Métis people to determine which Metis government they want to be citizens of.”


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